A few weeks ago the Los Angeles Times ran a Business Section article about Lexus brand being 30 years old and suffering a “midlife crisis”.* Our editor-at-large has a slightly different perspective on the subject
I (think) that I’ve found that sometimes doing the right thing not only works for the person (or in this case a whole corporation) on occasion it overlays and influences a far wider set of circumstances.
I submit here that the sort of standard that Lexus simply stunned the rest of the automotive world with those thirty years ago was taken by many manufacturers as a call to arms, a challenge to build automobiles that were better than just good enough.
(Way) back in 1990, I reviewed the first Lexus (the LS 400) for a lifestyle monthly in Chicago. I had picked the car up in Torrance, California at the then Toyota headquarters. Nancy Hubbell handed me the keys with a wry smile on her face and off I went.
At this point, I only really remember one thing about that day and that drive. I remember getting home, pulling into my driveway and turning the ignition key off.
And then just sitting there for what seemed like a long time.
At first, I almost didn’t understand why I was sitting there like that but, little by little, the trickle that became a torrent came back through: this car was something very special that only really hit me fully when I stopped and shut the car off in my own driveway.
I think that I muttered something to myself that Buick was in trouble not really knowing how right I was (then).
Bear in mind that had driven and reviewed (most) of Europe, America, and Japan’s best automotive offerings at that point and was quite used to driving high-quality machines.
But the Lexus was different. There was no “WOW” factor that thrills and chills (and then goes away about as quickly as it hits ). This was a “WHOA!”
I’m fairly certain that my long-ago “Lexus moment” has subsequently been shared by many in the industry and, I firmly believe, has figured greatly in engendering the sort of build quality that now is part and parcel of every mainstream automobile brand sold in this country.
In other words, Lexus-like quality has now become so much part of the picture that the brand’s demeanor that inspired it (at least for me) is now viewed by many almost a given.
Thirty years is a very long number of years in the ever-changing world of automotive design and innovation, but, in my copybook, Lexus automobiles are still the standard of the industry.
They remain expert quality, quietly consummate, luxury performance automobiles which still can inspire a “WHOA!” or two. – DS
See L.A. Times article: Lexus confronts a midlife crisis with aging SUVs that are losing to rivals